- Developer: Sierra Online Shanghai Studios
- Publisher: Sierra Online
- Microsoft Points: 400
I always feel sorry for games like Gin Rummy. There seems to be a glass ceiling for their critical reception, based on nothing more than the fact that it's a card game, and who plays card games on their console? Fact is, Gin Rummy is a pretty good card game, with its only drawback being the generally drab presentation.
For those who have never played Gin Rummy (presumably because you're not an old lady) each player is dealt ten cards. You score by forming "runs" made up of three or more sequential cards from the same suit, or "sets" of cards of the same face value. Any cards in your hand that don't fit into your score are called "deadwood", and only when your non-scoring cards value less than ten can you "knock" and force the other player to put their cards on the table. Any of their cards that enhance your hand can then be stolen, but if their deadwood cards total less than yours, they win the hand.
There are other wrinkles to the game, but that's the overall gist of it. And it works surprisingly well on the 360. It's closer to Uno than Poker, and games can go on just as long, with the default goal being 500 points from a series of 100-point games. There are numerous tweaked rule-sets to play with, or you can define your own, and as well as the rather repetitive solo play there's an obligatory online mode with camera support.
It's a solid adaptation of a fun card game, and at 400 Microsoft Points it's priced just right. As I mentioned earlier the only major grumble is that the presentation is functional and, despite a tutorial mode, the rules aren't particularly well explained for newcomers. There are several better card games on Live Arcade, but if you've got the points to spare this is a more than adequate timewaster.
Pirates vs. Ninjas Dodgeball
- Developer: Blazing Lizard
- Publisher: Gamecock
- Microsoft Points: 800
Pirates! God, they're funny, aren't they? They say "Arrrrr!" And ninjas! They can totally flip out and kill people! I read it on the internet! Wouldn't it be hilarious if these two classic comedic lifestyles could collide in an irreverent sports game?
No. No, it wouldn't.
There are many reasons to be wearily disappointed in this game, but first and foremost is the lazy way it falls back on the long-since-exhausted comedy potential of pirates, ninjas and also zombies and robots. There's no reason for this thematic conceit, beyond appealing to the worst sort of zany mindset. Comedically speaking, it's a game for people who still think it's funny to say "Wassuuuuuup?"
You'd hope the gameplay could save the day, but you'd be wrong. The basic rules of dodgeball - "throw ball, hit other players" - remains but being hit no longer means instant dismissal from the field. Players now have health bars which must be whittled down, and you're able to throw homing shots and power balls to speed up this process. You can also hit opposing players to stun them, and use special attacks.
There are three modes of play, but there's not a vast amount of difference. There's normal dodgeball, where the teams are restricted to their side of the court. There's enhanced dodgeball, where you can cross the centre line for three seconds. And there's combat dodgeball, which is basically a free-for-all. You get four courts and four teams with what they laughably call "story modes" for each team. All can be played through in about ten minutes.
The graphics are nice, in a stylised cartoony way, but the game moves painfully slowly, with characters trudging around like they've got wellies full of sand, and then annoyingly goes into slow motion for every power throw. The courts are full of blind corners, while the camera often leaves big chunks of gameplay off-screen. Any attempts at teamwork soon give way to mindless ball-lobbing.
With a frustrating yet easy single-player mode that can be exhausted in less than an hour, it falls to multiplayer to improve the score - and it's true that playing with other people does liven things up a tad. You do have to wonder, though, what sort of person would opt to play this dreary effort when there are dozens of superior online games available instead.